higher ed,  oer

OER as educational heritage

Tragic face

There has been a pruning of A-level subjects in the UK recently, with Art history, Archeology, and Classical studies all for the chop. It’s like the Beeching Report for education. It is puzzling in many respects – everyone talks about how the workplace is becoming increasingly fragmented, diverse in terms of jobs. We are told things like 65% of today’s students will be doing jobs that don’t exist yet (which reminds me of Anchorman’s “60% of the time it works every time“), and yet we are making the education sector increasingly homogeneous. And with higher ed funding increasingly focused on STEM subjects, it is not just at secondary level that this restriction of choice will occur.

This perhaps hints at another role for OER, which is preserving some aspect of the necessary diversity in educational topics. Just to be clear, I’m not suggesting OER should replace A levels in these subject, but rather arguing that if they are being scrapped, then thank goodness OER can at least keep them going in some format. OER provide good quality content that is specifically aimed at learners, which is distinct from other resources (documentaries, books) in the area. The OU’s OpenLearn site for instance has a fine collection of material on Art History. OER then can at least help the motivated learner stay in touch with a subject. There may be further possibilities however, in the often talked about model of accrediting informal learning. In such a model maybe we can bring some diversity to a curriculum by having OER electives. You may be studying Physics, say, but there is one open elective so you can add in an option of Archeology through the provision and accreditation of OER.

That is of course, nowhere near the same as having rich diversity in official courses, but it at least keeps appreciation of these subjects alive, until such time as a more enlightened educational regime is in place.


    • admin

      Hi John, thanks for raising this. The Beeching remark was a bit throwaway but your comment has made me reflect on it a bit more, and it’s more apt than I first realised. As you suggest, lack of users was the reason Beeching had fro axing the lines, and the same might be true for these subjects. However, we often came to regret the removal of those rail lines as society changed – people began commuting more and moving to to the country. But replacing the lines was too expensive, so this led to increased road traffic. The same might be true of the educational cuts – society changes and we find we want people with different types of skills. Also, like Beeching I think the decision is unimaginative – the only solution was to rip up lines, and the only option is to cut the subjects. We could do much more imaginative things with education now – using OERs might be one option, blending courses with online to get a greater cohort spread across schools, using PhD students for marking, mentoring, etc. It seems to be driven by a more ideological motivation, which was the same for Beeching. I now regret not making this post about that analogy now 🙂

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